March 11, 2010
Founded and coordinated by travel agent Paul Stalbaum, the event has steadily grown through the years and boasts a team of seasoned HIV speakers and long-term survivors. Presenters include fitness author Nelson Vergel ("Built to Survive"), treatment advocate Jonathon Goldman, and Drs. and partners Nate Klarfield and Grover Lawlis, all of whom are living with HIV disease.
The event attracts a inclusive spectrum of men and women living with HIV, according to Stalbaum. There are special workshops and activities for each group, as well as events for the entire group to enjoy together. Cathy Olufs, celebrated activist and founder of the Three Poz Gals social group, returns this year as hostess for the straight contingent.
Celebrating his maiden voyage as cruise M.C. this year is blogger Mark S. King, creator of the video series "My Fabulous Disease" on TheBody.com about his life as an HIV positive gay man.
"We're all in the same boat, you might say," says founder Stalbaum. "This cruise truly embodies our shared joys and common challenges. It's about having fun, making friends, staying educated and supporting one another. That's life!"
Workshops on treatment, fitness, and even spirituality will take place, but King says his hosting duties include keeping the "fun factor" front and center. "I know nutrition is important to maintain my health," he says, "but if there's a chocolate fountain onboard I will knock you down to get to it. Bring on the goofy games and the water slide! Who's with me?"
The cruise departs Ft. Lauderdale on October 23 for an eight night voyage to Colon (Panama), Limon (Costa Rica), and Cozumel, Mexico. The group has chosen the Carnival Freedom again this year, because of the "great amenities and affordable rates they provide us," says Stalbaum. "And we enjoy sailing with other passengers from all walks of life. People with HIV live happily in this world, not apart from it."
Cruise rates start at a low $439. Early rates are available until April 15. For more information or booking, contact Paul Stalbaum at (954) 473-6611, or toll free at 888-640-SHIP. You can also visit the HIV Cruise Retreat web site at www.hivcruise.com (for the gay men's agenda) or www.positivecruise.com for more information on activities for the straight men and women aboard.
Editor's note, 3/23/10 -- UPDATE: Due to extremely high response, the scholarship capacity has been reached.